So when I say that I have 2000+ books and no shelves, you realise that I’m exaggerating, don’t you? Relatively speaking, though, it is true. According to librarything I need the equivalent of 13 large Billy bookcases. As it is I actually have 4 makeshift shelves, which house my Folio Society collection and a few well-deserving interlopers ….
These shelves proved surprisingly sturdy (double-stacked with luxurious Folios, they needed to be, but they are about to be dismantled forever – to make way for 8 tall and narrow Billy bookcases. (Billy, I hope you know what you’re in for!)
I thought it only fitting and fair to record their 10 years of dutiful service.
Starting with my favourite – surprisingly easy to pick actually.
This is an English version of the Latin Bestiary (Bodleian library, Oxford M.S Bodley 764), containing all the original illustrations in facsimile. It is a fascinating insight into the medieval mind in which the animal kingdom is catalogued according to type with explanation of their purpose in the education and instruction of sinful man. I’m afraid my favourite bird – the owl – does not fare well.
The screech-owl get its name from the sound of its cry. It is a bird associated with death, burdened with feathers, but bound by a heavy laziness, hovering around graves by day and night, and lighting in caves. Ovid says of it “A sluggish screech-owl, a loathsome bird, which heralds impending disaster, a harbinger of woe for mortals.” (Metamorphoses v. 550); For among the augurs it was said to foreshadow evil. The screech-owl is an image of all those who yield to the darkness of sin and flee the light of justice. Hence it is counted among the unclean creatures in Leviticus. The screech-owl is the symbol of all sinners.
Oh, dear. Fortunately my favourite domestic animal, the dog, fares much better with 4 pages of anecdotal evidence of love and loyalty. Mythical creatures are also included although it’s hard to say from the text whether the writer believed in these or not.
The phoenix is known to live in certain places in Arabia and to live for five hundred years ….
Sirens, so the naturalists tell us, are deadly creatures, which from thehead down to the navel, are like men, but their lower parts down to their feet are like birds …
You see my problem. As soon as I pick up this volume, it is almost impossible to put it down again ….
Move on though I must to the most disappointing. Again, quite easy. I collect Folio Society books for their design, the quality in the binding, the pages, the cover and, as evidenced from above, the joy of illustration. So a couple of years ago, when I received the gorgeous, shiny, beauty on the right and opened it to discover not a single illustration within, I was mortified. Apparently Patrick Suskind didn’t want an illustrator to impose his/her vision of Perfume on reader’s minds. Fair enough, but be consistent with this. Why refuse book illustrations when you’ve sold the film rights? (Btw I love the novel and I adore the film also.)
I’ve been building up my collection of Folio Society books for 9 years (most of them have been acquired quite cheaply from 2nd hand outlets – I don’t understand why these lovely books don’t hold their price.). The first FS edition I bought is on the far right of this selection.
I purchased To Kill A Mockingbird when I decided to treat myself while rereading for the BBC Big Read in 2003. It was also the start of my online presence (although it took a few years before Lizzy was born). As we say the rest is history.
On the left is my most recent acquisition. Preordered in November, it arrived yesterday, hot off the presses: Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, which I’m itching to reread, particularly as the illustrations are superb and really drawing me in. But it is embargoed until April thanks to the TBR Dare. Sandwiched between these two are a number of other Folios to be read, if I’m ever to finish my 100 years, 100 books, 100 authors 20th Century Challenge. This TBR Dare milarkey is a good opportunity to crack on with that and simultaneously cheer on Simon of Stuck-in-A-Book and his cohorts in their own version of this challenge: A Century of Books. So that’s what I’ll be doing in the next few weeks – when I’m not dismantling the old shelves and working out how best to organize the new.